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Biohistory Epistemology

Reference on the name biohistory

Antonia Colamonico (2005). The Story of a Paternity. World Futures 61 (6):441 – 469.Name does matter. During exploration of knowledge, name provides dignity of existence. Isolating a quid from a whole, name gives that quid a status (i.e., helps it to gain a space, time, and fact). Biohistory had its own name in August 1992, when finally my mind isolated the historical quantum as the promotor of life. Shape follows name; Biohistory began to take shape in 1993, when it ran into Edgar Morin's ideas. For about a year, Biohistory had been a game I toyed with, using it to show my pupils the explosion of events in spaces. I even gave it a poetic dress, in the form of nursery-rhymes (Spazioliberina; Colamonico, 1993). In 1993 I also read Morin's Introduction to Complex Thought (1993), in which it is assumed that a new science and a new doctrine would manage to read the one-whole. It was then that I understood that this theory would have been the body-mind-eye of my joyful child. So I adopted Morin as the father of my Biohistory

From Epistemology of History to the birth of a new Science


© 1996 Antonia Colamonico (translation by Luisa Argenti)

Biohistory of Knowledge

Butterfly Effect

In 1960 in California E. Lorenzi studying meteorological evolution discovered, by chance, what is now called the “butterfly effect”. The American scholar was studying the dynamics of winds, using the computer, when he found that two similar processes could differ and lose any kind of similarity if the smallest variation, as aleatory factor, took place to change the direction in one of the two.

The discovery was that what we usually call error is the innovating and sparkling element (butterfly effect) that allows the renewal of a process as splitting.

I totally agree with the proof of the interdependency of real systems on the initial conditions of phenomena which I applied to my epistemological and methodological research on history.

Our knowledge is based on errors and it was just from the survey of two structural limits in the historical research that I started my exploration in the Universe of History.

In 1987 I had the opportunity to take part to a National Meeting: “The Historical knowledge: events, structures, interpretations”, organized in Bari from the 19th to 21st of March by Professor Antonio Brusa on behalf of CIDI (formation center).

Professor Brusa’s great merit was of having started the process of re-reading and redefining the subject.

By listening to the different reports on the complex structure of the various research fields, I found it necessary to solve two vital questions for a better methodological understanding.

The first issue was the one I expressed to Prof. Maurizio Gusso. I had worked with him on a welcoming project for student workers at the ITIS (school) in Monza, Milan in 1976. He was here then as an expert in didactics.

My observation was:

  • Why does not the historian consider “the future” a historical field?

By observing the table on the research tendencies I found that historians usually speak of the past. Only recently their attention has taken into consideration the present and we feel the need of a “Today” reading field to place side by side to the “Yesterday” field; however the historical dimension of man is based on three levels:

  • Past - Present - Future.

It is the latter, the future the sparkling element which leads the action. It is the planning lines of future images, in fact, to lead the society-subjects to the choice of actions-answers in the present.

In this 3-D circular picture not all the actions have the same historical weight:

  • choice <a> for example is not the equivalent as choice <b>.
Each future line has an interdependent relationship with the same action which has traced it in a certain time-space. These lines or paths act as historical echoes, they represent the “thin patterns” of living that turn the past-futureii into a Net, while the event-fact is the pivot that makes life concrete. This field which has a relation one-whole is the reading space of biohistorical study.

Historical quanta

The vital dynamic is the process of futurization, impressed on the fields of the real by historical quanta, which are the promotors of life.

(EDGAR MORIN AND BIOHISTORY: THE STORY OF A PATERNITY By Antonia Colamonico.Translated by Giammaria Mancino. World Futures: The Jounal of General Evolution, a cura di A Montuori. Vol. 61 - n° 6, pp. 441-469, part of the Taylor & Francis Group - Routledge, August 2005.)

Types of Biohistorical Mapsiii

Biohistory: infinite = event : 1

Historical Infinite = (all events x all spaces x all times)

Duration of event echo = (0 time Þ all future times)

The second issue was architectural. The research fields and, as a consequence, the amount of information had multiplied but they were dealt with using the old organization of knowledge. I understood that the change produced was no longer legible through the linear structures, based on Taylor’s theoriesiv, but through analogical space-like jumps. This was also my discovery and I decided to come into contact with the net-work system. The step from Net to Pivot and to Window-Link was short.

Reading reality with an echosystemic eyev we can say that there are no isolated systems in nature, but only systems within larger systems. Each system, in turn, being a “whole” including interacting elements, produces into its nucleus a Cohesive Force similar to an Attraction Field which gives it energy. The field exceeds (goes over) its confine in the strict sense of the word and this going beyond it creates a Basin of attraction for other systems.

If we look at it from this perspective, the Industrial System has not only been an economic-productive system, but also: political, social, cultural, mental, linguistic, methodological, etc.. When a change occurs in one of the systems to which it belongs at a certain x point, inevitably and irreversibly a change takes place too in all the systemic whole (butterfly effect). In those busy days I had the intuition that the problems in our method of reading-handling the historiographical information was much more complex. We could speak of the real collapse of the Cognitive Universe and of the Representation of the same historical discipline.

We needed to discover a new method of reading, observing and moving through information, overcoming the upper limits of knowledge which reduced them to one-dimensional lines of reading them. We needed to make a Gnoseological Jump that would produce a new order of filing and handling historical knowledge and that would affect all other disciplinary fields.

Biohistorical map of fractal thought

Map of fractal thought, in which organizational aspects of information-knowledge are placed at a meta-level that opens the mind to plays of informative (dis)orders. Discontinuity of reading becomes a guarantee for the dynamic nature of the same readings. Dynamic knowledge, that draws evolutional lines of processes by multiple eyes-degrees of observation.

(EDGAR MORIN AND BIOHISTORY: THE STORY OF A PATERNITY By Antonia Colamonico.Translated by Giammaria Mancino. World Futures: The Jounal of General Evolution, a cura di A Montuori. Vol. 61 - n° 6, pp. 441-469, part of the Taylor & Francis Group - Routledge, August 2005.)

I also understood that the re-definition of history could not but start from an epistemological reappropriation of its meaning.

  • - What is History?
  • - What do we mean by Historical knowledge?
  • - What are the fields and dynamics of history and what the ones belonging to knowledge?
  • - Can History be identified with Knowledge and vice-versa?

From a series of questions, together with my students I re-read the “conceptualizations” and all the definitions stored and we started to distinguish, divide, select, redefine and drawvi.

These operations have produced a new area for research. According to M. Maturanavii, the disciplinary object arises from the very observer who extrapolates it from the background which includes it.

While surveying we arrange, label, indicate so that the object acquires its confine which is sufficiently appropriate to become its cognitive domain.

When an observer examines a particular structure and isolates it at that very moment it becomes an objectviii. Each new exploratory field is the result of an “acting-gem”ix of thought which moulds a new way of reading reality. Language registers are infact, multi-directional products of the same operation of isolation of portions of the same whole.

I thought of Biohistory as a cognitive object, in 1992, when I drew up a new window-architecture of historiografical learning in the project Event-Time-Spacex, thus overcoming C. Cellario’s (1634-1707) old division into periods (Ancient times - Middle Ages - Modern Age) . In my work I confined History only to facts-events, as if they were acts that occur or actions that happen in a space-time 0 in the present. In this way History acquired the meaning of life that comes true as time goes on in every space-universe; while “knowledge” assumed the meaning of construction-image of life-facts. What is life but the succession of the quantum events as quantum quid that happen and are lost in Space.

Knowledge, on the other hand, means to find out these losses by arranging, defining and labelling them. As a subsequent factor it does not reproduce events but only their discrete images. Knowledge is linked to “neghentropia” that is to the acquisition-tracing of meaning; the events are linked to entropy that is to the falling off loss of meaning. 

From the map related to the cancellation process of the event in a certain space, factor x, we clearly understand how knowledge is useful to traceback, to re-find meaning in time-space. To re-find is not related to the event, but to the reader’s eye-mind which confers meaning, as a historicalxi limited entity closely related to its peculiar cultural-physical space.

Once we have defined the meaning attributed to history and knowledge, we can clearly understand how the historiographical knowledge is only the production: of opinions over opinions on a lost reality; of readings from historiographical patterns that, to previous historians, look like the reductions of discrete reductions. The changing of the informative quantity direction has produced, produces and will produce a constant redefinition or recontextualization of the same knowledge through a light/shadow effect which changes the sense and the meaning, the historical weight in relation to the changing of the reading focus.

If it is the eye which justifies the sense, more eyes will produce more senses, consequently there will be different and possible visualizations of the same isolated event-object (multiple reading).

Biohistorical research from the very beginning started to be considered only as a subject to be studied not only on a one-whole field including past, present, future reality, but also as a broadened method of exploration-reading, as an echosystemic eye able to produce simultaneously different degrees of knowledge. This method can open the mind to a fractional vision of Reality. 

By defining a window system type of Knowledge and a variable space of observation it was possible to improve knowledge with the possibility of having a multiple and dynamic view of reality. A study in motion of the kinetic type, reproduces the falling off of events in space-time and highlights the historical meaning to more eyes and to more disciplines.

The realization of dynamic and historiographical charts of: travel routes, sense jumps, routes-simulations, reading games allows us to devise simultaneously different orders of knowledgexii:

  • by implementing the information management skills; by increasing mental potentials; by accelerating learning processes; by reducing dependence on ideological intransigence; by transferring informative data from a disciplinary context to another.

By preferring a space dimension, although we had to change the traditional methods of reading historiographical surveys usually connected to the only dimension of time, we have been given the possibility to expand the research horizons, since biohistorical study will in time be able to answer many questions:

  • - How does an event start?
  • - What is its disruptive potential in space?
  • - What do we mean by space?
  • - What type of energy is it given off?
  • - Which routes can the falling off follow or, by using a definition dear to M. Maturanaxiii, witch routes does the natural drift follow?
  • - Can a mathematical model about the evolution of events be processed just as it has been done for meteorology?

Of course E. Lorenz, although playing at his computer, has not been able to capture clouds; nor anyone will be able to restrain events which are subject to aleatory factors. Nevertheless the prediction of future events may help us to live better in the present considering also, the high evolution in our computerized system. It is not accidental that the historian P. Kennedyxiv and a researcher A. Tofflerxv have changed their research field from the Past to the Future.

Two areas: field/ego

To study the dynamics of events implies the observation of other two areas: 

  1.  The Field as a multidimensional space (= + elements sides: geographical, physical, biological, psychical, mental) in which the event occurs producing erosion.
  2.  The Individual Subject, the ego reader-actor of historical facts-answers who can, with his action or inaction, change the route and the tendency, it can slow down or speed up the falling off of events.

A two-dimensional study, extended to two focuses which can break up into sets of sets, will inevitably lead to a change of the visual faculty by a representation on different levels (echo-systemic eye).

It is important to broaden our view on what is happening in the scientific area to understand the historical importance of a one-whole research which splits and reassembles, to split once again as in a game of sets which meet and deviate. Studies on our brain malleability on the earth echo-systemic dependence, on the astrophysics attractors, on the fear effects, on the fractal forms, on the time directional line, on the eye, on the origin of ideas . . . . all these are changing the above-logic reference principlesxvi. Infact the entire rational system between perceptors and meaning of western culture is being questioned.

The same concepts, on nature and culture, on what is physical and metaphorical, on science and on the vision-representation of reality are being reviewed by an epistemological method.

Scientists call such a change a paradigmatical jump from a mechanized thinking to an ecologized onexvii. This jump presumes a complete reorganization of knowledge, through the recovery of an interactive valence among thought vision-perception-elaboration-manipulation-environment. The result of such a set of elements may be called “Reality”.

Biohistory may be surely defined as the Science of a New Era since it reduces to a dynamic Net system, past, present and future Reality. Such a system lives, evolves, reproduces itself in space throughout a game of perturbations as the falling off of events.

The King who feared disorder

It is impossibile to foresee all the biohistorical movements, for only a mind that suffers from omnipotence believes itself capable of programming the future, dominating vital quanta; but such mind suffers from loneliness and death. In its freedom to accomplish the reading of cosmic life/death, the eye/reader can direct the look towards either life/syntropy, or death/entropy; according to the way/direction of the look, the eye/reader will read the degree of order or disorder of the same reality. Life is orderly and disorderly at the same time, like a continuous process of organization/disorganization of fields, in broader fields. To learn to read with a doubled eye is to view the mutual influences of fields and to catch the harmony of the being-becoming.

(EDGAR MORIN AND BIOHISTORY: THE STORY OF A PATERNITY By Antonia Colamonico.Translated by Giammaria Mancino. World Futures: The Jounal of General Evolution, a cura di A Montuori. Vol. 61 - n° 6, pp. 441-469, part of the Taylor & Francis Group - Routledge, August 2005.)

The perturbation produces the informative quantums which are the life promoters since to each falling off of events corresponds a self-organization of the spaces to which they belong. The self-organization of the spaces reproduces in turn a new perturbation which falls on the outside spaces.

The continuous co-self-organization gives origin to cosmic life. This macro bio-structure is the Infinite set of all the Infinities, whose event, fact-time-space, is the smallest discrete quantity, subject to being recognized, labelled, weighed, reported.
  • Considering Biohistory as an observation Field of the Universe “One-Whole”, what relationship the reader-actor’s eye has with it?

As an explorer overcoming its ignorance, it comes into possession with diversified larger and larger quantities of infinite in this ascension it elaborates, plans, discovers, recognized, produces. The same disciplines are, as I have already said, the product of such operations.

Biohistorical knowledge being considered the Science above science is the sub-stratum or the thread which ties and gives sense to the different research works, methods, objectives, languages, expectations and answers.

Only a Knowledge in Net as a larger eye, will allow the reading of all the connections among a mathematic function, a technological invention, a military success-unsuccess, a biological discovery, an ideal of freedom and an organization of the mind. The study of the relations in a one-whole field requires a mind free from prejudices, ready to question itself and able to deal with doubt and acquire it as an element of knowledge.

To understand the effects of this new research method on the didactic area we should start working with the class and with imagination which must not be mistaken for fantasy and we should move on using the ecology of the actionxviii which includes decisions, bets, choices, strategies projected in the futurexix.

All this will give a justification to the study of the past.

A “multiple-window” kind of knowledge allows to zoom in the eye-field of reading and to accomplish multiple-grade observations. Moreover, highlighting the line of border-limit can lead the eye to view the inside/outside as doubling of the foci of reading, in order to carry out topical/atopical/utopian observations.

Finestra Storiografica (historiographical window).

(da A, Colamonico. Fatto tempo Spazio. Premesse per una didattica sistemica della storia. OPPI Quaderni, Milano 1993, p. 22.)


iE Lorenz, Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow - in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 20,1963.

iiA Colamonico, Biostoria - Verso la formulazione di una Nuova Scienza (Campi, Metodi, Prospettive) Il filo, Bari 1998.

iiiA Colamonico, idem.

ivP Manacorda, Lavoro e intelligenza nell’età microelettronica, Ed. Feltrinelli - Milano 1984

vA Colamonico, idem

viE Marconi, Spazio e Linguaggio, ed. IPL Milano 1990.

viiM Maturana, Autocoscienza e realtà, ed. R Cortina, Milano 1993.

viiiF Capra, D Steindl-Rast, L’Universo come dimora, ed. Feltrinelli, Milano 1993.

ixA Colamonico, idem.

xA Colamonico, Fatto Tempo Spazio, premesse per una didattica sistemico della Storia, ed. OPPI Quaderni Milano 1993.

xiH Putnam, Rappresentazione e Realtà. ed. Garzanti, Milano, 1993.

xiiA Colamonico, Mappe di pensiero complesso. Carte di viaggio in ordini biostorici, 1996, inedito.

xiiiH Maturana F Varela, L’albero della conoscenza, ed. Garzanti - Milano 1992.

xivP Kennedy, Verso il XXI secolo, ed. Garzanti - Milano 1993.

xvA Toffler, Lo choc del futuro, ed. Sperling & Kupfer, Milano 1988.

xviT S Kuhn, La struttura delle Rivoluzioni Scientifiche, Ed. Einaudi, Torino 1978.

xviiE Mazzini, Physis e progetto. Interazioni tra natura e cultura, in Pluriverso, Biblioteca delle idee per una civiltà planetaria, n° 1 Dicembre 1995, pagg. 91-102, ed Rizzoli.

xviiiE Morin, Introduzione al pensiero complesso, ed. Sperling & Kupfer, Milano 1993.

xixG Bocchi, M Ceruti, E Morin , Turbare il futuro, ed. Moretti & Vitali, Bergamo 1990.